Retro vs Remake: Elevator Action … Gooooing Up!

Today's Retro vs Remake Games: Elevator Action vs Elevator Action Deluxe

Hotel floors filled with doors and elevators; a common movie setting for comedic chase scenes. But a video game based on doors and elevators? It works better than you might think.

Elevator Action is a 1983 arcade game developed by Taito. You play as a spy named Agent 17, or Otto (no, not Evil Otto;), tasked with infiltrating an enemy complex and stealing confidential information. The complex though, happens to be full of doors, elevators and guards. Being a spy that prefers traveling light, you’re armed only with a small pistol and your wits. Using a traditional four-way joystick and two buttons (jump and shoot) you must navigate the vertical buildings collecting documents from red doors while avoiding the guards that come out of blue doors. Fortunately you can take out the guards using a variety of methods such as shooting, jump-kicking or elevator-crushing. Unfortunately, as you progress through each level, the guards become more agile and their returning shots faster and more frequent. Elevator Action may be a fun game, but it is not an easy one. As with many games of its time, your character is a one-hit wonder and will drop dead with so much as a scratch (or short fall) on his adorably covert sprite.

While there have been several sequels and ports of Elevator Action over the years, Elevator Action Deluxe is the first “true” remake of the arcade classic.

Once again, Otto (or his female counterpart) is tasked with retrieving secret documents from the red doors while avoiding guards. Only this time the buildings aren’t always vertical and they aren’t always hotels. You’ll be slinking through factories, mines and military bases avoiding everything from enemy agents (some of whom summon more agents if they spot you) to soldiers, robots and bombs. Along with the wider variety of stages, hazards and enemies you also get an expanded arsenal of attacks. You still start off with a basic spy pistol, but you can collect weapon upgrades like machine guns, rocket launchers and lasers. You also have a new melee attack so you can bop enemies on the head should they get too close. Or if you’re the stealthy type, you can hide behind a blue door and wait for an enemy to pass by before flinging the door right into his back. Otto also must be wearing Kevlar armor this time around as he can take three shots to the chest instead of one and can even recover lost hits via “heart” doors.

There’s also an expanded multiplayer mode where up to four players (local only) can take on the fifty campaign missions together or duke it out in competitive mode.

Finally, the music in Deluxe is mostly cliched & often silly sounding “Mission Impossible” or “Bond” style tracks that fit the game’s corny atmosphere quite well. The game also mixes in many of the arcade original’s sound effects with the “realistic” sounds making it a treat for nostalgic ears.

So, final verdict? While Elevator Action is fun in its own right, Deluxe just adds so much more gameplay while keeping (most) of the core elements in tact that I’d have to say I enjoyed playing Deluxe far more than I ever did the original.

What do you think? Are Deluxe’s gameplay additions too convoluted or unbalanced? Or is the arcade original too limited and unforgiving to be much fun after ten minutes?

Retro vs Remake: Dig Dug vs. Mr. Driller

Dig Dug, the much loved 1982 arcade game by Namco has been ported, sequel-ed and remade a dozen times over. And why not? It’s a charming, addictive game, despite its age.

Who knew tire pumps made such effective weapons?

Gameplay is pretty simple: drill your way around in the dirt, destroying enemies by inflating them with your bike pump. Yes, a bike pump. Like Pac-man or Galaga, this game has little basis in reality. You play as a little Japanese man (Officially known as Dig Dug, but also known as Taizo Hori) that must rid the earth of monsters. To do this, you must drill underground where the monsters dwell. Moving in any of the four directions on the 2D stage automatically drills the dirt ahead of you, creating a maze of tunnels in your wake. But be careful, drilling underneath rocks causes them to fall, so make sure you’re not in the way; monsters on the other hand… The monsters spend most of their time prancing back and forth in their own little tunnels, at least until you break the walls confining them. (If you take too long, they will transform into phantoms and float through the dirt toward you) Once freed, the monster will start moving along the tunnels you’ve created and attempt to strike you before you can toss the “air hose of death” at them.

Speaking of the bike pump, its actually an interesting weapon. When you press the “fire” button, you throw the hose out in front of you and if it catches a monster, it automatically inflates them. Slightly. To destroy them, you have to keep inflating them by continuously pressing the “fire” button. Interestingly, an effective strategy is inflating the creatures partway so that they remain motionless (at least until they deflate) then you could “arrange” them in a group under a rock and crush them for bonus points.

Now how about that remake…

Mr. Driller.

Namco went from cute to absolutely quirky with this 1999 arcade Dig Dug remake. (indecently starring the son of Dig Dug) Now I use the term remake loosely; Mr. Drilller is kind of a kind of a sequel/spin-off/remake of Dig Dug all rolled into one. The basic concept of drilling underground remains, but the rest of the game is completely different. For one, there are no enemies to harm or harm you. Instead, the environment is your adversary. Your goal is to drill down through a field of colored blocks until you run out of air (you can collect air refills as you drill) or reach the bottom. The blocks come in all various shapes with like adjacent like colors sticking to each other. As you drill, you will invariably cause the blocks above you to come loose since you can and have to drill in any direction. If you’re not fast enough, these blocks can crush you, but if a falling block happens to pass a similarly colored block, it will stick to it and, if it creates a set of 4 or more of the same color, disappear. Needless to say, the falling and disappearing blocks can cause massive chain reactions either to your benefit or detriment. There are also special blocks that don’t merge with other blocks as well as poison blocks, that if opened, can drain a chunk of your precious air supply.

The sound and graphics in Mr. Driller are certainly something to behold. It’s extremely bright and colorful with obvious Anime styling and the sound is every definition of happy and quirky.

So how do these two games compare? Well they both have pretty simple and easy to pick up gameplay. Mr. Driller is certainly more fast-paced and frantic than Dig Dug’s admittedly slow trudge. On the other hand, Dig Dug does allow for more strategic planning to rack up point bonuses. So I’m not sure how to call this one. They’re both great games, but I do have a nostalgic partiality for Dig Dug.

What’s your vote? Dig Dug or Mr. Driller?

Retro vs Remake: Legion of Galaga

"Let's blow these things and go home!"

Today’s Retro vs Remake games: Galaga vs Galaga Legions/DX

While technically not the first fixed space shooter, Galaga was probably one of the most successful ones. The sequel to space shooter Galaxian, Galaga shares many things in common with its predecessor but also features some neat new innovations.

Gameplay is pretty simple: you move along the bottom of the screen, firing your ship’s gun at the alien formations that move around at the top of the screen. No, this is not Space Invaders, the aliens will actually try to actively attack you by dive-bombing your ship and firing shots of their own. There are even “boss” enemies at the top that swoop down to try and capture your ship. (If you let them, then you have a chance to recapture it and get a dual-ship;) There are also challenge levels every four levels where enemies fly across the screen in predefined formations and you get bonus points for each enemy you hit and an even larger bonus if you destroy every enemy in each “wave” and/or stage.

After its initial success in the arcades, Galaga spawned a couple sequels and in more recent years, several remakes.

The most recent and notable remake is Galaga Legions. This XBLA/3DS game takes the core concept of Galaga (shooting aliens) and completely turns it on its head.

The first noticeable change in Legions is your ship. Not only can you move your ship anywhere on the screen, but in addition to your standard fighter, you now have two small, indestructible satellite ships attached to each side that fire smaller shots along with your main guns (which now fire a continuous barrage rather than individual shots). These satellite ships can also be positioned independently around the screen and will fire a continuously in the direction they’re facing. This adds a unique layer of strategy to the game that is otherwise lacking.

Enemy formations have also gotten a complete overhaul. It is very rare that you will see the standard five row pyramid from the original. Instead, massive swarms of enemies swoop in from all over the screen. To balance the seemingly impossible odds, nearly every enemy swarm has a “core hive” somewhere in the formation. If you destroy the core, every enemy attached to it is automatically destroyed. Another helpful feature are the “trace lines” that briefly appear before each wave showing you the path of each enemy formation.

Another new gameplay feature is the “black hole” object. This object occasionally appears and begins to suck everything on the screen into it. If you manage to destroy the hole, any enemies that were caught in its vortex will become your allies and swarm all around you, destroying any enemy in their path (destroying themselves in the process). This feature seems to replace the “boss galaga capture/dual ship” trick from the original game.

The visuals in Legions are stunning, especially when you have masses of enemies on the screen, your ship is firing at full power and you have turned enemies swarming all around you. While impressive, it can also be distracting and difficult to tell what is going on around you when the screen is full or laser blasts and explosions.

Legions is an excellent game with a definite old-school feel, but the massive shoot-fest also seems to take away any strategy found in the original and turns it into a game of pure reflexes and pattern memorization. Then again, that’s how many arcade games played as well. All in all, I’d have to say I liked the original Galaga best; its elegant simplicity beats the sensory overload of Legions.

What’s your pick? Galaga or Galaga Legions? Vote for your favorite in the comments.